• More Hours on TV Highlighted by First Year of US Open Exclusivity
• Expanded Schedule on ESPN3 Begins in January in Brisbane and Sydney
• Special Events Down Under on ESPN3 with Federer, Nadal followed by Record-Breaking Australian Open Coverage
• ESPN Tennis Team Looks Ahead, Sees….More First-Time Major Winners, U.S. Women on the Rise, and the Same Two at No. 1 – Serena and Djokovic…probably
ESPN’s 2015 tennis season – its 37th since beginning in 1979 just one week after ESPN debuted – will be the biggest ever, with more hours on TV – more than, highlighted by first-time exclusivity at the US Open – and an expanded schedule on ESPN3 exceeding 5,000 hours, representing the most live tennis of any media outlet in the U.S.
The 2015 action gets underway in January with action from two WTA events – the Brisbane International and the Apia International Sydney – on ESPN3 leading to ESPN’s 31st Australian Open which begins Sunday, Jan. 18. The year’s first Major will receive more than 150 hours of television – nearly 110 scheduled live plus afternoon reairs of overnight action – and a most-ever additional 800 on ESPN3 with action from up to 13 courts.
The top players expected to compete in Brisbane include Maria Sharapova, Victoria Azarenka, Ana Ivanovic and Americans Madison Keys, Alison Riske and Christina McHale. The field in Sydney boasts 10 of the top 14 players in the current rankings: Simona Halep, Wimbledon champ Petra Kvitova, Agnieszka Radwanska, Caroline Wozniacki, Angelique Kerber, Dominka Cibulkova, Ektarina Makarova, Flavia Pennetta, Andrea Petkovic, and Sara Errani.
Before first ball in Melbourne, ESPN3 will present live two special events featuring three all-time greats, Roger Federer, Lleyton Hewitt and Rafael Nadal:
- On Monday, Jan. 12, at 2:40 a.m. (Sunday, Jan 11, at 11:40 p.m. PT), One Night with Federer and Hewitt will feature the 17-time Major champion (and four–time winner in Australia) and the former No. 1 who is one of Australia’s most popular athletes in an exhibition match. It will be played on a temporary court floating on Sydney harbor and with the innovative “Fast4” rules (no ad scoring, no lets, first to win four games wins the set with a tiebreak at 3-3) developed by Tennis Australia. The action will then continue at the Quantas Credit Union Arena in Sydney with matches involving Pat Cash, Henri Leconte, Mansour Brahimi and Frabrice Santoro.
- Two nights later on Margaret Court Arena at the Melbourne Park site of the Australian Open, The Summer Set with Rafa Nadal will see the 14-time Major winner (including the 2009 Australian Open) playing three consecutive matches in the new Fast4 format. He will first face a pair of Australians, Mark Philippoussis and Omar Jasika. Now 38 and retired, Philippoussis reached the finals of Wimbledon and the US Open in his career while the 17-year old Jasika is the reigning US Open junior singles and doubles champion. Nadal’s third opponent will be fellow Spainard Fernando Verdasco.
“At ESPN the competition is significant as we seek ways to challenge ourselves, expand, enhance and enliven our presentation through technology and creativity,” said Jason Bernstein, senior director, programming and acquisitions. “Tennis fans know ESPN provides the best coverage year-long, and now with exclusivity at two of the four Majors plus as the primary network in Australia, we look forward to our busiest – and best – year yet.”
|Tue, Jan 6||8 p.m.||WTA Brisbane InternationalRound of 16||ESPN3|
|Wed, Jan 7||8 p.m.||WTA Brisbane InternationalQuarterfinals #1 and #2||ESPN3|
|Jan 12-14||TBD||Apia International Sydney||ESPN3|
|Mon, Jan 12||2:40 a.m.||One Night with Federer and Hewitt||ESPN3|
|Wed, Jan 14||3 a.m.||The Summer Set with Rafa Nadal||ESPN3|
@ESPNTennis Team: What to Watch for in 2015
The ESPN tennis team – the best in the business – looks ahead to an exciting 2015 with these hopes and expectations:
- Look for another first-time Major winner among the men: Kei Nishikori or Grigor Dimitrov.
- Victoria Azarenka’s comeback includes a Major title.
- An American woman will be the finalist in one of the slams. Guaranteed!
- Novak Djokovic continues to dominate.
- Andy Murray is no longer a member of the “Big Four.”
- An American woman will reach the semifinals of a Major.
- Grigor Dimitrov will win a Major.
- So will Stan Wawrinka.
- Serena is still the best…will win two Majors.
- Look for Belinda Bencic to have a big year!
Mary Joe Fernandez
- Changing the trend, the sport will get younger.
- I see an American woman (or women!) in the semis of a Major.
- It’ll be No. 10 in Paris for Rafa.
- Victoria Azarenka comes back in a big way.
- On the men’s side, I would love to see somebody born in the 1990s win a slam. Among the ladies, look for a young player to break through – Madison Keys, Sloane Stevens or Genie Bouchard.
- Considering Rafa has won nine in Paris, I’d say somebody else is overdue. If it’s not Rafa it’s probably Novak.
- But look for Rafa to make a strong comeback…better chance than Azarenka.
- I want to see Madison Keys finish the year in the top 10.
- The sport has gotten older but that may be ready to change. That’s the great thing about tennis…the veterans find out how to keep relevant. But also, eventually, there’s always an infusion of youth. We just haven’t had a lot of it lately on the men’s side.
- It’s not a lot to ask for, but how about an American man making the quarterfinals of a slam in 2015? And one of them finishing in the top 12.
- It’s a “put up or shut up” year for Kei Nishikori, Milos Raonic and Grigor Dimitrov. If they are going to be legitimate contenders, the time is now.
- That said, I think Nishikori will win a Major.
- With the women, it’s “same old, same old”…Serena and everyone else. Will anyone threaten her when she plays her best?
- That said, there absolutely will be a first-time Major champion. Could be Caroline Wozniacki in Australia or Simona Halep at the French. There’s many candidates, but who is going to step up?
- You read it here: an American woman will reach the final four of a Major.
- It’s going to be a very exciting year in the ATP because there are teenagers who could make some noise – Nick Krygios (19), American Jared Donaldson (18), Borna Coric (18) and Alexander Zverev of Germany (17).
- We’ll say it again…this is Roger Federer’s last year to win a Major.
- Novak Djokovic will be No. 1 again.
- Andy Murray’s days as a consistent contender at the Majors are over.
- Agnieszka Radwanska will win a major.
- Serena will win one major.
- Venus will get to the finals of Wimbledon.
- Ivan Lendl will coach a top player again, perhaps a woman.
- Novak Djokovic will win Roland Garros.
- Robin Soderling will announce a comeback.
- No American man will win a major.
ESPN – All Four Slams, All In One Place
Tennis has been part of ESPN since its first week on the air and provided many memorable moments, but it has never been as important as today, with the US Open joining the lineup in 2009, giving ESPN all four Grand Slam events, something no other U.S. network has ever done, let alone in one year. ESPN has presented the Australian Open since 1984, the French Open since 2002 (plus 1986 – 1993), and Wimbledon since 2003, with exclusivity for live television with all other rights extended in a 12-year agreement starting in 2012. Exclusivity for the US Open in an 11-year agreement begins in 2015. ESPN3 delivers an unmatched multi-screen presentation of the sport’s four majors, all ATP 1000 and 500 tournaments, WTA Premier Events and season-ending championships for both tours.